Commissioners given update on damage from flooding

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners Thursday were given an update on public infrastructure damage from Wednesday morning’s flash flooding.

Robert Herrington of the county’s Emergency Management Agency said information is being gathered from throughout the county about flooding damage to roads, bridges and culverts. He said Tweed Avenue in Steubenville was destroyed by the flood waters.

Herrington said $16 million in damages is needed for a federal disaster declaration. He said the damages might not reach that amount but the county may be eligible for a state disaster declaration. Such a declaration will allow local governments to bypass normal bidding requirements for quicker repairs to infrastructure.

Herrington noted the flash flooding on Wednesday morning was the worst he has seen in decades.

“As far as flash flooding, there was the quickest since the 1980s,” he said.

Andy Bryan, county chief deputy engineer, said there was extensive damage to county roads from the flooding. He said, as a result, the county engineer’s department will have to put the chip-and-seal program on hold while repairs are made to county roads. He said the chip-and-seal program already was delayed because of rainy weather this summer.

Bryan said it will take two to three days to make an assessment of the damages.

Roads in the southern part of the county suffered the most damage. He said county Roads 18, 17, 7, 8, 15A, 1 and 74 will require repairs. Pavement was damaged, including shoulders and culverts.

A bridge on Warren Township Road 115 was destroyed in the flooding, according to the county engineer’s department.

In other matters, commissioners approved rescinding part of a water rate reduction.

Commissioners in 2009 cut water rates across the board by 10 percent and reduced the minimum monthly bill $2.

The water rates were reduced at the time because of a $2.5 million surplus in the water budget. Also, the rate reduction was imposed because of an increase in the sewage bills to get federal funding for the Crestview-Belvedere sewer project.

The water department used the surplus money to offset deficit spending in the water department. Michael Eroshevich, interim water and sewer department director, said the surplus has been reduced to $795,000 at the beginning of this year. The amount will drop to $250,000 for 2015. Based on that, the county water and sewer department will end the year with a deficit.

The water department wanted to raise the monthly base rate to $35.79 for 3,000 gallons of water and increase the additional per 1,000 gallons of water rate to $7.50.

The water department again will begin accumulating a surplus based on the proposed increases.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham questioned if the entire increase is necessary with the surplus projection, and county Commissioner Tom Gentile said he was not in favor of the entire increase.

County Commissioner David Maple said he was in favor of an indexed rate set by operational costs of the department. He noted the rate could float up and down, thereby keeping the surplus amount in check.

Commissioners settled on a base rate of $33.79 and a per-1,000-gallons-of-water rate of $7.50.

A customer using 4,000 gallons of water a month will see an increase of $4.13.

Commissioners also discussed selling 25 percent of the mineral rights at the county airport.

The regional airport authority has been in discussions for months to sell the mineral rights. The county will retain 75 percent of the mineral rights, which will include royalties from oil and gas drilling.

The sale of the mineral rights will generate $1.1 million.

Maple said the revenue will only be used to operate the airport.

Graham said the money will be a way to make the airport self-sufficient.

Commissioners sent the proposed sale to the county prosecutor’s office and the airport authority attorney for review.

Commissioners also:

– Were informed by Evan Scurti, county port authority executive director, that QPI Tools, located at the county industrial park on county Road 43, Wintersville, has met its hiring commitment under its tax-abatement agreement. QPI Tools receives a 60 percent tax abatement. The company has 27 employees.

– Signed an easement with AEP for providing electrical service to the new 911 tower on township Road 120, Dillonvale. Herrington, who also is 911 director, said the tower construction has been completed. He said Verizon is being contacted about putting a cell phone antenna on the tower to improve cell phone reception in the area.

– Approved attorney fees for indigent criminal defendants in the amount of $39,901 for August.

– Were informed Probate Judge Sam Kerr has appointed Jay Kolenc of Hopedale to the Friendship Park Board.

– Approved the appointment of Margaret Warren of Tiltonsville to the Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board.